I Scooped Newsweek

Of course, that's the equivalent of saying you beat your grandfather in the 100 metre dash but still…they're just getting around to a cover story on the latest trend in cyberspace, Facebook while my article for CLA's Feliciter on the very same topic came out a couple months ago (though it wasn't a cover story either so I guess it's really a tie in some ways.)  

Anyhow, since CLA has recently approved an open access policy that frees up most of their intellectual property including the full contents of all the but the most recent issue of Feliciter, I thought I'd post the article here now (it's not on the CLA web site yet as the redesign is still ongoing.)

Facing Off With Facebook: E-mail For the 21st Century

By: Jason Hammond 

I have exactly 159 friends
online.  This includes 78 from the
University of Western Ontario where I attended library school, 28 from my home
province, 12 friends of friends, a former CLA President, the current CLA
Treasurer, and an assortment of others that defy easy classification. 

            And how do
I know these numbers and relationships with such precision?  I’m a member of the social networking web
site, Facebook (www.facebook.com).  You may have heard the term “social
networking” but might not be sure what it means.  Don’t worry – neither do most people as it’s a fairly new
technology (and I’m including myself in the list of people who are still trying
to figure out what it is exactly.)

            But if
you’re not sure what social networking is, one easy way to think of it is as
“e-mail for the 21st century.” 
In fact, a colleague at a University of Western Ontario library told me:
“It’s crazy – the students log-in to check their e-mail then immediately log-in
to Facebook.   Except they log-out of
their e-mail but stay on Facebook for as long as they’re on the computer.”

What’s the appeal?  Social networking sites such as Facebook
allow you to add friends and colleagues to your network, post pictures and
biographical tidbits about yourself, leave private or public messages for other
people and join groups on pretty much any topic you can imagine.  There’s an unofficial CLA group which has 36
members when I started writing this article, 74 when I submitted it a couple
weeks later, and hopefully one more by the time you finish reading! 

Once you’ve built a network of
friends, Facebook has a “News Feed” feature that displays your friends’
activity every time you log-in.  This
article isn’t nearly long enough for a discussion of the changing view of
privacy in the Internet age.  But I will
mention that of the great strengths of Facebook is that it gives you a high
level of control over who sees which parts of your information.  With this said, it’s important to remember
that the default setting is that anyone in your network can see your
profile.  So if you join the “University
of Toronto” network or the “Winnipeg” network, anybody from those groups can
see your profile unless you change your privacy setting.

So is it worth it for you to
join?  If you’re reading this, I’m
guessing there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not a twenty-year old college
student who’s looking to post pictures of last weekend’s beer drinking
exploits.  But, contrary to stereotypes,
that’s not what social networking sites like Facebook are about anyhow (okay,
maybe MySpace is but that’s a different article entirely!)

Facebook, and other social networking
sites like it, are yet another tool, like your phone, your e-mail and your
instant messaging client, to stay in contact with your colleagues and your
friends as well as to meet new people. 
It costs nothing to join so why not sign-up, explore the site a bit and
see what all the hype is about?  Add a
few friends.  If you’re concerned that
you won’t find anyone you know, ask a colleague to join at the same time.  Or join the CLA group and be surprised at
how many people you already know who are on the site.

Once you’ve established your
network, the appeal of this new form of communication will become clear.  Although I’m sure you would never let
yourself get hooked like those crazy college kids at UWO’s Weldon library, you
might find yourself logging in every day or two (or even a few times per day)
to see what’s happening and what your friends are up to, just like you do with
your e-mail already. 

If you have any thoughts on
Facebook, I’d love to hear from you at <jason@hammond.net>. Or better
yet, leave me a message on Facebook after you join!

Further Reading: Why I Registered on Facebook.
By: Lemeul, John, Chronicle of Higher Education, 00095982, 9/1/2006, Vol. 53,
Issue 2

Next Issue: “Finding Your
Space on MySpace”

(Editor's note: The MySpace article was bumped for post-conference coverage but will hopefully be in an upcoming Feliciter.)

Jason Hammond is a recent
MLIS graduate, the new Branch Supervisor with the Southeast Regional Library in
Saskatchewan and a close, personal friend of “Naked Gun” star, Leslie Nielsen
(or at least somebody claiming to be him on Facebook.)   

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